Tuesday, October 26, 2010

UN withdraws war probe Panel on Sri Lanka, asks for direct submissions before Dec.15

By K.T.Rajasingham | Asian Tribune

There will be no investigation by the panel appointed by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and no visit by the panel members to Sri Lanka, according to emerging reports.

When Asian Tribune contacted sources in the United Nations it was revealed that there will be no investigation by the three member panel appointed by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in 22 June 2010.

A number of senior diplomats in New York also took to the view that the panel must stay within its mandate. It was also confirmed that, contrary to some circles in Colombo, the panel members have not been asked to visit Sri Lanka up to now by the UN Secretary General.

Diplomats have categorically pointed out that the said UN panel’s mandate was very vague and there was no mention about investigations.

The UN spokesperson Martin Nesirky when announcing about the appointment of the Panel said "The panel will advise the secretary-general on the implementation of the commitment on human rights accountability made in the join statement issued by president (Mahinda) Rajapaksa of Sri Lanka and the secretary-general."

“The panel will look into the modalities, applicable international standards and comparative experience in regard to accountability processes taking into account the nature and scope of any alleged violations in Sri Lanka," Nesirky said.

The UN has made it very clear that the panel is not a fact finding or investigative body.

The Panel officially began its work on 16 September 2010.

In the meeting between President Rajapaksa and the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on 24 September, which took place on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly sessions in New York, Ban Ki-Moon explained to President Rajapaksa that the Committee appointed by him relating to Sri Lanka was in no way empowered to investigate charges against Sri Lanka, but was solely to advice him with matters relating to Sri Lanka.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa apprised the UNSG that the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) is fully transparent and has been established on the principles of accountability in keeping with Sri Lanka’s own method of searching for the truth regarding its prolonged conflict, and identifying ways of preventing such conflicts in the future.

Also Sri Lanka's Foreign Minister Prof. GL Peiris on his first visit to the United Nations in September this year, asked Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to not to interfere in the internal matters of the country and allow Colombo to conduct ‘a domestic probe.’

In the meantime a contradictory report reveals that the UN Expert Panel has called for evidence on alleged violations in Sri-Lanka.

Accordingly, anyone wishing to make submissions in respect of the above may do so as follows:

1. Organizations and individuals may make one written submission not exceeding ten pages, and must include the contact details for the author(s) of the submission.

2. The Panel will receive submissions until 15 December 2010.

3. Submissions may be sent to: panelofexpertsregistry@un.org.

4. Submissions made to the Panel of Experts will be treated as confidential.

Further information may be solicited from the Panel s Secretariat at the following address: panelofexpertsregistry@un.org.

Earlier in June, UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said that the UN panel would be chaired by former Indonesian attorney general Marzuki Darusman, who is also the UN special rights investigator to North Korea, and will submit its report within four months. He added that the other two members are South African human rights lawyer Yasmin Sooka who served on her country's Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Steven Ratner, a US international law expert who advised the UN on how to bring Cambodia's Khmer Rouge to justice.

Mr Nesirky said the panel "will advise him [Mr Ban] on the issue of accountability with regard to any alleged violations of international human rights and humanitarian law during the final stages of the conflict in Sri Lanka".

However, reports clearly revealed that three member panel on Sri Lanka is not an investigative body and its mandate is vague.

Sri Lankan government slammed the decision of the UN to set up a panel of experts to advice the secretary-general Ban-ki-Moon on human rights situation in Sri Lanka, saying it was "unwarranted" since Colombo has already formed a mechanism to address accountability issues.

In July, the Sri Lankan government set up the "Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission" with eight members that will report back in six months.

In the aftermath of the appointment of the panel, Russia and China in their capacity as two of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council objected to such a panel appointment.

On 24th June Russian Foreign Ministry in a press release categorically rejected the appointment and said “Moscow has taken note of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s decision to appoint a UN panel of experts to investigate war crimes during the period of the campaign against the Tamil Tigers.

The press release added: “As follows from UN sources, this panel is not a fact finding or investigation mechanism, but is designed solely to advise him on accountability issues relating to alleged violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. In doing so, the UN Secretary-General as chief administrative officer of the United Nations should apparently have asked the opinion of the Security Council or the General Assembly on this matter. But this has not happened. What also makes us cautious is the fact that this decision was taken without regard to the position of a sovereign state and a member of the UN – Sri Lanka. As is known, they in Sri Lanka have already begun their own investigation process at national level (the Commission on Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation with a mandate to review all aspects of the conflict).”

“As follows from the statement made on behalf of the Government of Sri Lanka by the External Affairs Ministry of that country, and the statement of its Minister of Information, Sri Lanka “regards the appointment of the Sri Lanka Panel of Experts as unwarranted and unnecessary and contrary to the position of a UN member state.” Lynn Pascoe, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, who visited Sri Lanka a few days ago, as we understand, was aware of this position of Colombo.

“We believe that the primary responsibility for investigating the events that occurred in the past in Sri Lanka lies with its Government and that the newly appointed UN panel of experts, which, as follows from UN Secretariat statements, does not intend to visit Sri Lanka, will not take any steps that would complicate the investigation being conducted by the authorities of Colombo.

“The Chinese government also criticized the appointment of a panel and expressed its support for Sri Lanka's stance against the Panel of Experts appointed by the United Nations Secretary-General to investigate alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka during the war against the Tamil Tiger rebels.

“China said that it believes Sri Lanka is capable of handling their own problems and urged the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and world community to help the Colombo stabilize its internal situation.

Responding to questions regarding the panel at a regular press conference, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said Sri Lanka has appointed its own Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission to probe the violations of human rights during the war.

"China believes that the Sri Lankan government and its people are capable of handling various issues," the spokesman said.

© Asian Tribune

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